Ragnarok, “the doom of the Gods”, is possibly the best-known of all the Norse mythological events described in ancient poetry and prose. First-mentioned in the epic poem Voluspå (“the prophecy of the seeress”), probably composed around the year 1000, the poem introduces what is described as the cataclysmic event that ends all life, both in the world of humans, and in the world of the Gods. In this text, which is as poetic as it is mysterious, a seeress, summoned by the supreme God Odin, tells him about the ultimate fate of the Gods and the world they created.
As the evil giants, the Jötnar finally rise one last time to stand against the Gods, they bring with them the flames from the underworld, where Surtr, the blackened leader of the giants, reigns supreme. As the giants assemble, some choose to head for the land of the Gods with Nagelfar, an evil ship crafted from the nails of the fallen and stirred by Loki, the arch-adversary of the Gods. Other giants head through the skies, crossing the shimmering Bivrost, the Northern Lights bridge of legend…
According to the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, it is at this precise moment that, seeing the giants defiling the God-bridge, the divine Heimdall reaches for his horn and sounds the alarm. Yet, nothing the mighty one does can change the fate of the Gods and the giant-fire engulfs the Northern Lights bridge, coloring the skies with a menacing scarlet hue. Bivrost collapses and the adversaries meet in the mythical field of Vigrid where they will fall in the greatest fight of all. Yet, as Heimdall and Loki end each other and the world is consumed in flames, a handful of Gods and humans are permitted to survive Ragnarok in order to continue the eternal cycle of life in a new, peaceful golden age.
- (1) Larrington, Carolyne. (1996). The Poetic Edda. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics.
- (2) Snorri Sturluson. (1987). Edda (Anthony Faulkes Trans.). London: J.M. Dent.
- (I) Wilhelm Heine, Friedrich (1882). Kampf der untergehenden Götter. In: Wägner, Wilhelm (1882). Nordisch-germanische Götter und Helden. Leipzig & Berlin: Otto Spamer.